Sitting here on my bed writing this, I can tell you that I am very happy for choosing Vienna to be the place for my exchange. I have now lived here for two and a half months and can say that this is a great city to live in and I’m not alone in my opinion; Vienna is, by one quality-of-life study (http://www.mercer.com/referencecontent.htm?idContent=1128060), the most livable city in the world! There is always something to do, whether it’s chilling in the park Prater and checking out the amusement park, having a “wiener mélange” in one of the many cafés or going to a party with live music next to the Danube River. Of course there are times when a Finn misses having a proper sauna and salmiakki close by, but I am still very happy to live and study here at the amazing campus of WU!
If I’m completely honest, the application process to study at WU (Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien) was a piece of cake. I had taken all the mandatory German courses at the level C and a couple of other courses as well (if you wonder about my back ground with German language) and was in schedule with my studies otherwise, so I don’t think those factors hurt me during the selection process. I chose WU and Vienna as my first choice for exchange because the University’s good reputation, interesting study programs, German language and of course the central location of Austria in the middle of Europe (=travelling!). In addition I found the website of WU easy to navigate and that helped a lot when filling in the learning agreement etc.
During the application process everything was done via e-mail or otherwise online. Everyone answered my questions very quickly and thoroughly and I felt well taken care of from the very start. When it comes to actually arriving in Vienna and all the administrative things, with housing, banks and sim-cards etc., I got all the information straight to my e-mail. Upon arrival I already had an apartment (furniture and dishes included), a person to pick me up from the airport, course schedule ready and a survival booklet to help me find my way around in the beginning. Like I said; piece of cake.
Before coming here I decided to take part in a Cultural and Orientation program organized by WU as well as a Pre Semester German course. Together they cost for European students about 350€, but they were worth the money. During the three and a half weeks of these programs I saw Linz and Graz, visited most of the main attractions of Vienna, got to know many of the people also enrolled to the program and did all the administrative things concerning the start of studying at WU. I also refreshed my German and got a certificate to prove it! So if you have the time and the money to come to Vienna already in February (spring semester starts in the beginning of March), I highly recommend to take part at least one of the programs, cause it is, if nothing else, a great way to get to know people.
I live in a student housing called Gasometer B with one flat mate with whom I share the kitchen and a bathroom with. It is quite far from the center of Vienna and also the campus, but because of the amazing public transport system I haven’t suffered from it at all. It is also a very cool place to live with the building being an old gas tank and us having a metro station, shopping mall, movie theater, our own bar and gym all in the same area of two blocks. There is also a nice group of exchange students living here, so you have always someone to hang out with on the roof top drinking beer or to take the night buss home with after a night of partying! However, if I now got the chance to choose my housing again, I would prefer to find a room in an apartment with Austrian roommates. A couple of my friends have done it and that is the best way of improving your German here and also they do have a lot of fun and the apartments tend to be in areas closer to the center.
The studying itself differs a lot from the Finnish pattern that I was used to. Course schedules are hard to plan, because lectures are not arranged every week and the times and weekdays vary a lot. If you have to courses that are arranged at the same time more than once, you basically have to drop the other one, because lectures are mostly mandatory. Also the group size of courses is a lot smaller with a maximum of 30 people per course. That is also why you have to be awake and ready with options on the day of the course registration. Luckily for me, Nettiopsu had thought me a few tricks, so I got all the courses that I wanted. That was not the case for most exchange students though.
At WU they offer a wide variety of courses in English, from Finance to HR and everything in between. Courses are also available in German, if you think you can handle it. Most courses offered are worth 6 ECTS, (yay!). I have courses only in English and one Business German language course myself. I haven’t found the courses too hard or too much work, but they really make you do work throughout the course and not just study for the test and that is different from most of the course at TSE. Even though many of my courses have small presentations on every lecture and a lot of group work, because of the weird time tables of lectures I find myself having a lot of days off during the week. This has given me an opportunity to get to know Vienna and cities around Austria and in the nearby countries as well. The now ongoing three week Easter break does not hurt either…
When it comes to prices, Vienna is for the most part a bit cheaper than Finland. Because of the public transportation, you don’t really have to use cabs, alcohol is a lot cheaper and available in every store, going out can be cheap if you know where to go and food is affordable everywhere, even in the “nicer” grocery stores. Even though Vienna is a beautiful city with a lot of things to see and do, you have to be prepared for rude people and learn at least some German to be able to live here. Even though you can get English service in most places, there are still a lot of customer servants that don’t speak English almost at all, so a couple of German sentences can be very useful here. Also I must say, that this town is full of people that are nice, but if you want to do something that is not “according the rules” like have 9 people in an 8 people table, you will have a problem. Rules are rules. If the shop is supposed to close at 5pm, you cannot go in to the shop after 4.50pm and so on. Austrian people do not bend the rules for anyone.
Travelling from Vienna to all around Europe is easy and also quite cheap, when you find the right offers. I have organized most of my trips myself, but if you are feeling lazy the Erasmus Buddy Network of WU organizes along with their weekly parties and other events a range of trips around Europe and Austria, including Amsterdam, Krakow, Salzburg and Budapest for example. The only trip I have taken a part in by the EBN is the annual Ski trip to Zell am See and I can tell you, that it was awesome! Otherwise I prefer smaller groups and to make my own schedule so travelling with EBN has not been the thing for me but I believe it can be fun as well. Even though travelling is awesome and important, I cannot emphasize the fact enough that Vienna is an awesome city in itself and it’s important to know the city where you say you live in. I’m glad to say that I’m getting there!
To conclude my long ramble about the awesome life of an exchange student in Austria I must say, that I can recommend Vienna and Austria to anyone who likes cafés, skiing, a brand new, high tech campus, affordable living and easy travelling. But now I’ve got to run! I’m meeting with friends to get some drinks soon. Auf Wiedersehen!Salli Laakio Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien (International Business, 2/2014 – 6/2014)